Are gelato withdrawals a real thing? Because I certainly think I am going through them. A couple of weeks ago, I took a petite holiday with some dear friends to Firenze, Italy (aka Florence). And of course, when in Rome, do as the Romans do (okay, maybe not Rome, but close). So we indulged, we ate, we drank, we ate some more… and when we weren’t having pizza for breakfast, we were having gelato.
While some might consider 6 cups of gelato in the span of 3 1/2 days complete gluttony, I’m viewing it as a considerable feat.
Although it’s difficult to go wrong with gelato, just as it is difficult to go wrong with pizza — there are a few tricks of the trade that I picked up along the way when searching for the next best cone (or cup). In talking with numerous “gelato specialists”, otherwise known as my friends who have been living in Italy and consumed vats of this delicious sugary milk, there seemed to be a common consensus of what to search for when looking for “the BEST gelato”.
Avoid brightly colored gelato in neon colors, the gelato should be in neutral tones – closest to the color of what it is. So if it’s banana flavor, it should be a pale yellow opposed to bright “laffy taffy” yellow. The bright colors have a bunch of additives and the bright colors are meant to draw people in.
Usually the touristy shops that display their gelati out front for the whole street to see isn’t going to be as good. It’s a common rule that the shops you have to enter into will typically have better flavors and quality. (Their displays are trying to lure you in… oh marketing).
This ties in to the display, if the gelato is super fluffy and almost touching the glass, that means it’s been fluffed with air, is probably older and it won’t be worth your precious euros. It’s best to opt for those that are flush with the metal containers.
Places I tried while there:
Vivoli – one of the oldest gelateries in Firenze
I may be a bit biased because this was my first taste of gelato in Italy and opened up my tastebuds to a whole new world.. but I have to say, their Amaretto cookie with hints of almond and coffee was easily my favorite scoop from the whole trip. This place was a bit hard to find and the sign can be difficult to read in the bright sunshine, but definitely worth seeking out! It’s said to be the oldest gelaterie (or one of the oldest) and once you step inside, you definitely get that feel. Tip: You have to pay for your gelato at the counter to the right before ordering it and then give your receipt to the server!Vivoli: Via dell’Isola delle Stinche 7R
Vivaldi – best hang out
Vivaldi wins for the absolute best atmosphere. Abiding by the ‘Gelato Rules’ above, whenever my friend and I stumbled upon a shop that fit the criteria (and we hadn’t hit our 2 cup max) we’d wander inside. It was a Friday afternoon and relatively quiet in the area we were exploring (we found out later that it’s teeming with tourists on the weekend), Vivaldi surprised us by being a gelaterie, chocolate shop, café and cool hang-out all in one. After we ordered our cups – Pear and Mascarpone was the winner here, we wandered through the rooms and were greeted by an inviting and dimly lit study with just a few people reading over their books while enjoying the sugary treat. After walking all morning and desperately needing a WIFI break, we almost fell asleep on their comfy couches. DEFINITELY SUGGEST (just avoid on the weekend – it becomes a chaotic nightmare).Vivaldi: Via dei Renai 15
Santa Trinita – near Ponte Vecchio
Santa Trinita just down the road from Ponte Vecchio and next to the Santa Trinita bridge was warm and welcoming. The incandescent lights glowed in the evening and we screamed “GELATO!” before almost running into the line of cars zipping down the street. Sometimes you just really need gelato, y’know? Overall, we liked this place — the girl behind the counter was extremely patient and we butchered the Italian names and asked for a zillion samples. That and they allow dogs in here, so this made for one entertaining gelato experience (imagine a dog jumping to look at all the flavors and then not stopping until her owner gave her a bite).
Santa Trinita: Piazza Frescobaldi, 11-12/r, Ponte Santa Trinita
Perché No – for those with food allergies and sensitivities
For those with allergies and food sensitivities, fear not! Perché No in Firenze has an array of flavors for those with sensitivities and dietary restrictions that don’t allow for dairy. Interesting flavors form Honey to Lavender and just plain Milk.
Perché No: Via Tavolini 19r, Florence, Italy
Il Gelato di Beduschi – in Mercato il Centrale
After getting pizza for breakfast at Mercato il Centrale, it was only fitting that we top off the super nutritious and healthy meal with gelato, right? So we did, of course. This whole market is a fun zone of delicious bites and but I was a bit wary of trying gelato here, as we tended to go for the ‘home-grown/family run’ atmosphere… and something about this place screamed that the gelato would be like 15 Euros. So I was pleasantly surprised when we asked and learned that that even for a cone, it was still about the same price we had been paying elsewhere — between 2.50euro to 5euros, depending on size. The milk chocolate flavor here is comparable to that of a Frosty from American fast-food chain, Wendy’s and SO GOOD. I also really loved the milk with pine nuts for an added crunch.
Il Gelato di Beduschi: Mercato il Centrale
Gelato dei Neri – said to be the ‘BEST’ in Firenze
Our last morning in Firenze, we under-budgeted our time and thought we’d have enough time to slip into the Uffizi, grab breakfast and one last gelato before making our 12:15 train to Bologna. With my sleeping patterns and the amount of Italian wine we drank the night before, this is actually comical. Waking up to the hostel owners banging on our door saying we had to check out in an hour (CALM DOWN) I languorously sauntered out of bed, hair every which way and one of my contacts stuck to my cheek. *Scratch those morning plans.* So after brushing teeth, we decided we had to make an ultimatum, one last slice of pizza at the place dubbed “BEST PIZZA” in Firenze or one of the “BEST GELATERIES”. And well, we opted for the more sugary choice. Rushing to Gelato dei Neri, our suitcases trailing behind us, we were the first guests of the morning. (Because who else eats gelato for breakfast?) I went all out on the last cone, opting for the large 5euro option complete with 4 flavor choices. While I didn’t like the mint flavor (it reminded me of toothpaste), the Mascarpone with ribbons of Nutella and pear was DIVINE. Actually drooling right this instant.
Gelato dei Neri: Via dei Neri 9
While there are a zillion more gelato options in Firenze, a girl can only indulge so much before guiltily unbuttoning her pants with that added bite of pasta… but hey, that’s Italy for ya!